Collins, Lieberman React to Inspector General’s Report of Security at San Francisco International Airport

In a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) director Kip Hawley, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), today expressed their concern with the findings included in a newly-released report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) that examined security measures at San Francisco International Airport.

Following is the full text of the letter:

Dear Assistant Secretary Hawley:

We are writing to ask the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to continue to address potential weaknesses in the reporting of aviation security breaches at our nation’s airports and to ensure the integrity of covert security testing. We are encouraged by the actions taken by TSA management to resolve issues recently identified at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), but we ask you to take further action to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report today entitled, “Review of Allegations Regarding San Francisco International Airport,” which assessed how security incidents were identified and reported at the San Francisco International Airport. The report found that TSA guidelines for reporting security incidents lacked clarity and that at least one security incident was not properly reported to TSA headquarters. Furthermore, TSA and private contractor security personnel at SFO compromised covert security testing by notifying screening personnel in advance of testers approaching their checkpoints.

We were pleased to learn that TSA and the management at SFO acted on the OIG’s recommendations to resolve problems with the reporting of security incidents and to prevent the compromise of covert security testing operations. However, the OIG’s investigation involved just one airport and the review of security incidents covered only a five-month period.

We urge you to follow-up on the issues identified above and in the IG report, to ensure those problems are not occurring at other airports, whether they use federal or private screeners. TSA should act quickly to finalize the development of a decision matrix of security breach scenarios to assist in determining what should and should not be reported as a breach. Both TSA and contractors should be trained in, and thoroughly understand, the guidelines for reporting security incidents to TSA headquarters. TSA also must take decisive action to preserve the integrity and effectiveness of covert testing of airport security. These efforts are necessary to ensure improved reporting of security incidents and robust covert testing at all of our nation’s airports, and they should include an examination of whether appropriate incentives are in place to encourage compliance with reporting and testing regimes.

We appreciate your prompt action at SFO and your further attention to this matter. We must not permit the errors that occurred at SFO to occur at other airports. We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen our aviation security system.